Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Janet Gaynor, 1906-1984

Janet Gaynor and George O'Brien in Sunrise (1927)

Today marks the birth anniversary of actress Janet Gaynor, who was born on this day in 1906. Some people might only remember her from the lists of Oscar winners, as she was the winner of the very first Best Actress Oscar. That's normally credited to the film Seventh Heaven, although the Academy rules at the time technically looked at one's body of work throughout the year in question, so Gaynor was also being honored in part for Sunrise and Street Angel.

Sunrise is a gorgeous movie, and shows what silent movies could do, and possibly what they would have been able to do if it hadn't been for the introduction of sound. (To be fair, it's only natural that people would want to hear the actors, and besides, while sound might have taken some things away from the movies, they made others a heck of a lot easier.) Gaynor made Sunrise and many of her other movies at Fox, which is why she doesn't show up all that often on TCM.

One Gaynor movie that does show up more often is the 1937 version of A Star is Born, in which Gaynor stars as Esther Blodgett-turned-Vicki Lester and moves up the ladder of success in Hollywood while her husband, Norman Maine (Fredric March) goes down into a miasma of booze. The story is melodramatic but fun, and also in nice early three-strip Technicolor.

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